For Theodore Roethke

The poet who was my teacher said we must rewrite.
It was a warm afternoon. Sun dabbled in the greenhouse.
So now I revise and revise until I think the real writing
is rewriting. First drafts are small forays into the hills
from which I bring back a pail half full of unripe
blueberries that may, on closer look, be
some other kind of fruit entirely. I remember
he leaned back in the chair and waved his hand
and said my poem describing salmon was really about sex.

We stood facing the faded paint of Parrington’s walls
each Friday, memorizing lines of a poem we chose to recite —
to learn the sound of the words together and the little spaces
between the sounds. Each of us quaked.
Inside the classroom he turned to the ravishing co-ed on his right,
the one with the throaty voice and said,
Play that for us on your bazooka, will you, honey?
She nearly fainted but she spoke the lines.
No one has ever made Louise Bogan sound like that.

He brought a straw hand basket belonging to his wife.
It was stuffed with books. “She’ll kill me,“ he said,
heaving it down on the table, the one who taught him
Turn and Counter-Turn and Stand, who taught him Touch,
that undulant white skin. We leaned to see what rivers
might pour forth, what three-beat lines, what metaphysical
poets hidden between the spines, what rose, what sorrow.
Later, in my car beneath the flagpole, he said to kiss him on his cheek just once. In the rearview mirror, there she was.

Who, sitting in the tea house, doesn’t know he died too soon?
Beyond the posts and beams, a roof of glass.
the swimming pool is sculptured sand. Five rocks
(the five-beat line?) mark where his breath last sighed
to any bird: the anniversary of his death day.
The last thing he said to me was,
There’s going to be a special graduate class next fall
and you’re in it. Years passed and one by one
we learned he said that to all of us.